Summary: Using Jesus’ Good Shepherd narrative, I’ve written a sermon for the death of a pastor.
June, Cori, Steve, family and friends, we gather today not as we have gathered before. A few of us were just recently gathered at Clarence’s bedside as he was
recovering from his recent heart attack. Some of us recently celebrated our Savior’s birth together as a family. Many of us congregated just a few years ago to celebrate with Clarence his retirement after forty-one years of ministry. Those were all very blessed occasions. We shared much joy and happiness. We reminisced about the past. We reveled in the present. We anticipated the future. Today, though, sorrow has
come into our presence. Today, we mourn the loss of our dear brother Clarence Jerome Cizek.
At time like these many questions come to mind. They fill our heads and surround our being. What will happen to me? Where is he right now? How will I go on?
In times of grief and loss, we may have feelings of guilt because we were not able to do or say all the things that we wanted to. We may be filled with a sense of hopelessness. We may be wondering why a loving God would allow us to go through so much pain. We may be asking ourselves, "Is this all there is to life? In the end, do we just die?"
Dear brothers and sisters, let me assure you that our brother, Clarence, lived a full and complete life. He married June in the summer of 1952. They spent many
happy years together. They raised two children. He worked hard during his forty-one years of ministry. He was blessed to see and hold his grandson who was born on the day of his death. But that’s not the end of the story! This is the middle of ~ story.
There is, oh, so much more. Peter, in his first epistle, encouraged pastors saying, "shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."
During those forty-one years, Clarence faithfully served his Lord Jesus Christ and the several flocks of
God that he was called to serve. He served the three point parish of Our Savior Lutheran Church at Gleason, Jeffris, and Summit for 5 years. He was called to start Faith Lutheran Church in Chippewa Falls and served it for 17 years. He was called by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Forestville. While serving them for 4 years, he started a campground ministry and a congregation, Prince of Peace, in Sturgeon Bay. And
finally was called to tiny Mt. Olive as a two year old congregation and in 15 years, it has grown to over 1500 members! Clarence faithfully served the flocks of God where he was called.
Looking back on all of his years of ministry, Clarence shared with us in his retirement sermon, as you may recall, the greatest joy he experienced in all those
many years. He baptized over four hundred babies! He faithfully performed the duties of his office according to his Lord’s institution. He was the instrument through which our Lord Jesus started four hundred children on their journey of faith. And now this child of God has reached the end of his journey.
We’ve seen the middle of the story. But what, then, was the beginning of the story? The beginning is a loving God who saw His people’s need for salvation and
promised a Savior. When the Savior came, he explained his purpose in coming.
Jesus said, "I am the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep." Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, laid down His life for Clarence. He endured the
ridicule of the crowds for Clarence. He endured the shame of being hung on a cross for Clarence. He endured the torments of being alienated from God so that Clarence would not have to. He was laid in a tomb so that Clarence’s tomb would not be the end of the story. Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, as we will celebrate in a few days, so that Clarence would pass from this life into the next.
Not only did Jesus explain His purpose in coming, but He explained the beauty that will be revealed. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "I am the door of the sheep; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." Isn’t that a lovely picture of what Jesus does for us? "He makes us lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside still waters." He watches over us and protects us.